Samuel G. Jacobson, MD, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Samuel G. Jacobson, MD, Ph.D.

Dr. Samuel Jacobson, William C. Frayer Professor of Ophthalmology, was the founder and director of the Center for Hereditary Retinal Degenerations at the University of Pennsylvania Scheie Eye Institute, Perelman School of Medicine. He passed away in January 2023, at the age of 78.

Jacobson earned BA and MD degrees from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a PhD from the University of London. Jacobson entered the field of inherited retinal diseases when clinical specialists were rare, there was little medical or scientific interest in genetic blindness, and there were no treatments. After earning his PhD, he completed an ophthalmology residency at Harvard, while continuing his vision research at MIT. He completed a two-year RP Foundation funded fellowship in retinal degenerations at Harvard and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

In 1983, he joined the faculty of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami, where he established the institutes first program for inherited retinal degenerations. He was recruited as Professor of Ophthalmology to establish the Center for Hereditary Retinal Degenerations at the University of Pennsylvania, where he moved with his colleague, Artur Cideciyan, PhD, in 1995.

His work elucidated mechanisms of human retinal degeneration, resulting from mutation in genes such as Rhodopsin, Peripherin/RDS, RPGR, RPE65, CRB1, RDH12, USH genotypes, BEST1, BBS1, CHM, CEP290, NPHP5, SPATA7, EYS and NR2E3. He led efforts to develop novel non-invasive methods to quantify photoreceptor function and structure including the development of the full-field stimulus test (FST), now a standard for monitoring patients in many studies of the natural history and treatment of retinal degeneration.

Jacobson was principal investigator of the NEI-funded RPE65 gene therapy clinical trial. Following the RPE65 trial, Jacobson and Cideciyan began to extend treatment possibilities to other currently incurable forms of inherited retinal blindness, including CEP290, GUCY2D and others.

Jacobsons impact on the field of retinal degenerations was centered on the care of patients with genetic retinal blindness. He mentored many clinician-scientists who have become leaders in the field of retinal degenerations. He was a prolific scientific author, publishing 366 peer-reviewed papers during the course of his illustrious career.

He was the recipient of the RPB Senior Scientist Award (2001), Paul Kayser International Award in Retina Research (2004), the Alcon Research Institute Award (2006), the Ruth and Milton Steinbach Award (2006-2009), co-recipient of the Board of Directors Award from the Foundation Fighting Blindness (2009), co-recipient with Artur Cideciyan, PhD of the Proctor Medal of ARVO (2017), and co-recipient of the Champalimaud Vision Award (2018).